The bookshelves of my mind

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The bookshelves of my mind
must be tumbled and jumbled
unsteady and cluttered, in urgent need
of repair and refiling or shredding.
How do I know this?
Because on the floor of my mind I constantly
find stray memories that have slipped, though
from which volume I know not.

Some are familiar, picked up and put back
innumerable times, but somehow always finding
their way back out, to flutter unbidden into
my consciousness. Usually embarrassing and
from decades ago. Mixed in amongst, sadness,
friends and family, gone, vanished, but not forgotten.
How rare the happy memories that arise spontaneously.

My antidote to this is simply to count my blessings.
I am what I am, and I am loved. I breathe in the scent of flowers
and feel the wind on my face. And above all of this,
I simply smile and record with joy all the good things
in my life and this world.

And they are many.

This is my head – what’s yours like?

Inkwork

Sometimes a black bin bag filled with rubbish.
Occasionally – rarely – a cathedral filled with God.
More often a busy highway filled with ceaseless traffic.
From time to time, a beehive filled with buzzing busy thoughts
That fill it with movement and noise, but with little substance.
A bus stop, waiting, waiting for just the right word
That will take me to my destination.
An overstocked library with ancient tomes spilling out
Of dusty shelves, much forgotten, so little retained.
A haunted house, filled with ghosts from the past.
A deep bottomless pit down which all is drawn.
A black hole from which no thought can escape.
A house of illusion.
A theatre of the absurd.
A comedy theatre, where the most ridiculous plays are performed on stage daily.
When you draw near, a garden of love, fragrance filled
Glowing with colour and shape.
A garden of peace, God filled,
Full of fragrant blossoms and soothing colour.
A place of dreams.
But above all else, a place I know well, for this is where I dwell,
This is my home, my space, where only some may enter,
A space where I can bar the door and shutter the windows
Turn out the lights and escape into blessed sleep

 

Tuesday, 11th July 1905. Another almost forgotten mining disaster

On Tuesday the 11th of July, 1905 at a quarter to eleven in the morning an explosion occurred in the nine-foot seam of the National Colliery at Wattstown in the Rhondda Fach in South Wales, UK. Some 119 men and boys perished, 33 of whom were under the age of fifteen.

The street I grew up in was decimated. The house – the very bedroom I slept in as a child – was emptied, but their death is not entirely forgotten. Was it their knock I heard as a child?
This poem is dedicated to their memory.

colliery disasterwattsotwn colliery

I hear the knock on the window and the loudly whispered
Voice, ”Tom, you up yet?” and then the rush as Tom
Gets out of bed, pulls on his work clothes and
Runs down the stairs to where a sandwich waits for him.

Have you ever wondered what lives beyond us?
In a house, what memories linger in the walls,
What remains when the inhabitants, have left or died,
And do their voices linger on down the years?

It is forty-three years since Thomas Jones slept,
in the bedroom where my mother suckled me,
Yet sometimes, around dawn, when the house Is quiet,
I hear him still, leaving for his last day at work.

Thomas Jones, sixteen-year-old collier is how the coroner’s
Report described him, a boy doing a man’s job and perhaps
Earning a man’s wage to help his family, they who lived here
Before mine, to make ends meet, put food on the table.

Did the tap on the window come from Bill Hunt, who lived
Next door in number forty-four? Or perhaps from Thomas
Davies at number fifty, walking with his own seventeen
Year old son on their way down to the colliery?

Sometimes too I hear the steps and the low conversation
of the others, twenty men and boys from my little street, as they pass by,
Marching, marching on their way down to the colliery,
To join their comrades who together would form the day shift.

As they passed through the colliery gates they would have seen,
The familiar turning of the giant wheels of the winding gear, spinning
Their shiny steel thread, day and night, hauling their steel cages up
And down, men and coal, travelling the shaft’s five hundred feet.

As I used to see my own father, black-faced, red-eyed, weary
Emerge from his shift, so they would have passed the night shift,
Emerging squinting into the rising dawn, weary, tired, wanting only
To rush home for bath and bed before the next twelve hours of toil.

And so the day shift descended,
Down the five hundred foot shaft and
Then made the walk in the dust-filled gloom
To begin their work in the nine-foot seam.

At eleven forty-five on that July day,
They all died, bar three, two of whom
Would succumb later. Some were blown to pieces,
And they that survived the explosion, suffocated.

When I lie in my bed, listening, recalling,
I never hear the sound of the returning day shift,
Only the voices and footsteps of one hundred
And seventeen men and boys going to their death.

No exit

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What space defies geometry by
having only entrances but no
exits?
My head. And I guess
yours too. There are events
from my past that have
entered into my head which
I would rather forget, mistakes
embarrassing episodes, but
once they enter, that’s where
they stay. Forever and ever.

Yesterday in Lockdown

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It’s funny what pressing an extra
“nought” or two on a keyboard will do.
Yesterday in lockdown
I ordered a kilo of potatoes
Or thought I did.

I wondered why the Store sent
A fleet of delivery lorries
To my door and why
The front garden is covered
In brown paper bags.

To those who wonder
Why there is a shortage
Of potatoes, I can only say,
It’s funny what
A misplaced “nought” or two
Will do.

The Mystery of Maeshowe

Maeshowe is another one of the Neolithic wonders on Orkney. A vast chambered tomb it stands on an ancient trackway that connects it to the stunningly well-preserved village of Skara Brae, as well as passing near the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.

Various calculations by archaeologists estimate it needed up to 100,000 man-hours to build and complete. Maeshowe is generally described as a tomb, but if so, why does it have a door that can only be closed from the inside? A pivoting stone door blocks off the entrance, but can only be closed from the inside?

Once more the poem The Seer provides a (mythical) answer.

Inkwork (4)
Maeshowe appears as a grassy mound rising from a flat plain near the southeast end of the Loch of Harray. On the Winter Solstice, the sun rises between the Hills of Hoy to shine directly down the passageway.